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Acting Tough

Posted 6/4/2019 9:15am by David Zemelsky.

That's just it.  I'm not tough. And don't really know how act that way.  For me, acting tough is trying to convince the meter readers  not to give me a ticket on my car.  It never works, anyways.   But farming is tough and one needs to be able to adapt to new situations at the drop of a hat, be it weather changes, animal or pest infestations or a big change in an order.  It feels a little bit like one is facing your opponent in tennis and you'll need to anticipate whether you need to pivot left or right at the last second.  It all keeps me guessing.

You really have to be tough to grow tomatoes.  We've already climbed that hill earlier when the furnace failed to go on one cold night and it froze all  (or nearly all) of the tomatoes. Oy.  What a disheartening sight that was.  I remember there was a lesson to be learned here, but I didn't want to face it.  Lucky for Star Light though, in that almost all of the "frozen" plants made a recovery.  Unfortunately, I've had experience with "frozen" tomato plants and knew that there was a good chance that they'd spring back.  It took a solid two weeks, though before I saw any green come forth from the rather dead looking plants.  Now, a full month and a half since this happened, I can hardly tell about their step back.

Most tomato plants at this time of the year are so incredibly vegetative.  They have an inner brain.  They really do. The message is: put on leaves, put on trust(these are the blossoms), put on height and put out more roots.  The last item is the reason that one should plant your tomatoes deep, burying most of the main stalk.  The stalk will create a root system that will keep the plant in good stead if there's a lack of rain.  Metaphorically, any time one can create good root system-do it.

Then comes the consequences of so much rapid growth.  It feels like if I take my eyes off a plants for 45 seconds, that in the interim, it will grow new stems where I never saw them before.  This is particularly daunting when I think of all the meticulous moments spent inspecting and cutting out suckers, so that the plant was forced to grow upwards rather than outwards. 

Tomato Plants are like foreign sports cars.  They're fussy and vulnerable.  That is one of the main reasons that we have only grown them in a hoop house.  In that way, we don't have to worry about rain creating a fungal disease that they'll never recover from or worry about them getting too much water on their roots.  They only get water that we give them.  Not from on high.  So, for the past three days, I've put a major push on to stay ahead of the tomato growth.  Its tough. Like all plants, their goal in life is to reproduce seeds so that there'll be more of them for the future. 

This leads me to a very small workshop for you on tomato pruning.  Ok. The idea is to keep the bottoms clear of leaf growth and new stems.  That should be removed.  Next we need to keep the plant to two main stems (four, if its a cherry plant).  We work on this by getting to the plant right at the beginning of its growth spurt.  The job is completed well when the pruning eliminates all unnecessary suckers and branches.  Soon after that, we'll attach strings to the two (or four, if its a cherry tom) leader stems.  They get attached by a clever "clothespin" of sorts that clamps onto the string.  The plant is then wrapped around the string or we'll use a clever and somewhat complicated tool called a "tey m up" that will put a heavy ribbon around the plant and the string in one movement and in its second, staple and cut the ribbon, so that one can move onto a new section.   So far this year, the most time that I've spent on any one plant is about 8 minutes.  That's mostly because I'm trying hard to stay up on them.  (In fact, what I should be doing right this minute is not writing, but pruning.  However, its important to me to share this information with you.)  There have definitely been seasons when any one plant has been neglected for so long that it takes 20 minutes or longer to go through one plant.  Very time consuming, yes?  There are always big pruning decisions that I have to go through.  Should I take this major stem out-its so big already.  Is there too many leaves?  Does the plant itself look healthy?  On and on.

Truth is that its a rewarding job.  One can see results immediately.  I should make something very clear, though.  One does not have to prune tomato plants.  You could let everything evolve with no interference.  Studies have shown that pruning does not increase the weight of produce that comes from a plant.  What does happen is that the plant is healthier and produces bigger and sweeter tomatoes.  And that is what we're after. And that is what we hope to bring to you this season-the best tomatoes anywhere. 

Many of  you don't know this yet, but several years ago, a young child who loved our tomatoes gave me a new nickname-"The Tomato Scientist".  I'm keeping it!


This week we'll have for all of you numerous lovely items.  If you're ordering for the shed, please get me your orders by 8AM on Friday.  Your order will be ready after 2pm on Friday.  Or, like the Durham CSA people, you can come over to the green in Durham on Thursday from 3-6:30pm and just shop.

I should also note, that we'll be at the Madison Farmer's Market on Fridays from 3-6pm.  Located on the green just west of town.  A beautiful sight.  And of course, Wooster Square in New Haven from 9AM to 1PM.  If you've never been to a Farmer's Market, it is the most singularly wonderful experiences ever.  You'll find freshly harvested food and extremely happy people. 

Garlic Scapes!- first of the season.  Use exactly like garlic.  Fresh, new Spring Taste. $5/bag

The scape is curved over and  green, almost in the center of the picture.  One pulls it gently out from the plant.  Cut it up and use in salad or for cooking!

Salad Greens, Pea Tendrils $6/bag

Big Kale, Collards,and Swiss Chard $4/bunch

Radishes- $4/bunch

Hakeuri Turnips- $4/bunch

Pak (Bok) Choi and Chinese Cabbage- $4/bunch

Scallions- $3/bunch

Radicchio- $3/head

Lovely Lettuce Heads- $3/head

Nasturium Flowers- a dozen for $4.  Pretty and edible, too!

Carrots- first of the year! Sweet and exciting $6/bunch

Spinach $6/bag

That's it.  I hope that you are enjoying this magnificence weather.  I can't help but note that we shouldn't be lulled into thinking all is well with the environment just because we have a great day.  Still, it is beautiful!